Activists Decry Violence Against Kashmiri Christians, Seek Help

Activists Decry Violence Against Kashmiri Christians, Seek Help

25 February 2012
Times of India
Ashley D'Mello

Mumbai: Former Bombay High Court judge and human rights activist Michael Saldhana has called upon the Union government to step in and protect the rights of Christians in Jammu & Kashmir. Speaking at a joint press conference with Joseph Dias of the Catholic Secular Forum (CSF), Saldhana decried the rising violence against minorities in J&K . The press meet was attended by Kashmiri lawyer Iftikar Bazmi and two Kashmiri Christians, who had covered their faces fearing retaliation by militant groups. 'First, it was Kashmiri Pandits who were being attacked. Later , Sikhs became targets of violence and now Christians are being attacked,' said Bazmi, who pointed out that small groups in the valley are behind the violence and do not have the support of the state's majority Muslim population. 'In November 2006, Bashir Ahmed Tantray, who had accepted the Christian faith, was shot dead by Islamist extremists in Baramullah district,' said Bazmi. 'In September 2010,the All Saints'Church was burnt for the second time. The same year, a mob torched a school and a church in Tanmarg district,' he added. 'These militant groups are not getting any money from the Indian government or groups. So, who is funding them? Obviously, they are getting help from outside the country,' Bazmi said. Dias said there seemed to be a race on between politicians to be more Islamic in the valley. 'Religious fanatics are now asking Christian families to convert to Islam,' he said and pointed out the case of pastor Rev C M Khanna who is being harassed under false charges. Dias said that there were only a few hundred Christians in Kashmir but some politicians have been claiming that the valley has thousands owing to conversions . 'There are a few who have embraced Christianity, but they did not do so due to force,' he said. 'The Centre and the state government must ensure the safety of Rev Khanna and dozens of families whose lives and property are in danger. The affected persons should be rehabilitated, given government jobs and loans to restart their lives.'